Archive for the ‘Life and Ministry’ Category

19

Nineteen days,  who knew that nineteen days would ever come to be so meaningful to me. I am not going to digress to the back story that builds the significance of these days.  You can get a sense of the whole journey here.  It represents the realization of on incredible Miracle in our lives and the beginnings of another.  Day 1 will forever be a joyous day.  We will celebrate the birth of Nisa Faith year after year.  Day 1 is the culmination of nine months of a melange of concern, faith, fear, trust and surrender.  It was a day of arrival, of life, of completion.  It was a day of overt blessing.  December 16th of 2012 was a joyous day.  What Allana and I did not know, what we could not have known was that it was a day of provision, a day of strength given.  I would be lying if I said that I sat at this computer with a solid thesis or a planned allegory.  The reality is that when I wrote this it was my first opportunity to truly experience and embrace the nineteen days.  When they occurred they were simply another nineteen days in the Christmas season and in 2013 we were still too deeply embroiled the Allana’s battle against Leukemia and the recovery from the Bone Marrow Transplant for me to experience them the way that I did as I was writing.  Now, five years out we sit at a new crossroads.  We have moved from sickness to health and out of the ashes of cancer God is teaching truths of life and ministry that are new every day.

Day 1 was not without its difficulties, ask any mother and she will tell you that this particular joy comes with its own brand of pain.  Two dear friends who were expecting when I originally posted these thoughts, engaged in a tongue-in-cheek argument on Facebook concerning any man’s ability to truly conceive of the trials and eventual pains of pregnancy and birth.  I do not even pretend (or desire) to really understand, preferring to stand by Allana’s side than in her place for this particular event.  Chayla’s birth was a stroll in the park, Nisa’s was more like a kick in the gut and then a short sprint to the finish line (a race in which Nisa beat our doctor and surprised our nurse).  Still, there she was, perfect, beautiful, a miracle from the hand of God.  We basked in the joy of the now.  We knew it was day one, but not that there were only 18 days left to this paragraph of our lives.

The frenzy of the night (Nisa was born at 9:40 pm) and the flush of the first day gives way to a wash of relief. The tensions of the past nine months; the fear at each ultrasound appointment; the waiting for the pronouncement that a new cycle of loss and grief would begin; they all fall away.Nisa Day 2

We joyfully prepare to bring Nisa home.  I am not sure that my words can express Day 2 any better than the twinkle in Allana’s eyes.  This Christmas gift is probably the best that we have ever received.  The whole family rejoices at the absence of that fateful “talk” with Robert, Sami and Chayla.  Each of us in our own way process the losses of the past in the joyous light of Nisa’s arrival.  We cannot help think of the siblings in heaven, from the Crashing resonation of Josiah’s passing to the unheralded passing of Ezra Matthew.   Day 2 becomes about rest, enjoyment and blessing.  The gathering storm is still beyond the horizon.  There is no sense of the deadly changes perhaps just beginning to take place.  Still what would come does not erase the joy and peace of Day 2.  It only serves to highlight it and to make me more thankful for God’s grace than ever.

NisaHome

 

 

The frenzied posting, calling and emailing is over.  Nisa Faith has been announced to the world.  As we approached the day that we celebrate our Saviors birth, we finally get to truly celebrate Nisa’s coming.

D. A. Precious: And those cheeks! I’m so happy for you!
December 19, 2012 at 1:48am · Like

Allana Belrose Guidry: I know. They are getting lots of kisses
December 19, 2012 at 1:54am · Like · 2

Nisa’s cheeks are getting a lot of kisses.  Allana is feeling a little more tired than usual….but then she just had a baby and she is not as young as she used to be.

We were prepared for all of the life changes that a newborn brings.  Bassinet, Pack n Play, bottles, formula, car seat, diapers etc….  What we did not know was that God had also prepared us for the changes that most likely even on this day six years ago were beginning to take place in the depths of Allana’s bones (weird to type that and not mean it metaphorically).  Eleven years of growth through struggle as a family, as individuals and as children of the Living God was about to be tested in a way that we had not imagined even in our wildest nightmares.  Still even as we were prepared for Nisa’s arrival, God had prepared us for that which we could not have even begun to be ready for.  So many crossroads where God directed what seemed the long and windy path.  It seemed so foolish, as foolish as buying diapers and preparing a nursery for a baby that would never come.

Nisa was here, and the long and windy path would soon be clear.

 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:15-16

The frenzy of birth fades in the light of our celebration of our Saviors arrival on the scene.  These days are filled with wonderful preparation and quiet enjoyment (with little sleep).  We are blessed by the generosity of so many of you who will read this, as we were suddenly and unexpectedly blessed this year.  Then as now I don’t know why I am surprised when I pray for provision and it comes in abundance.  Presents are wrapped as Nisa is loved and coddled by so many.  The preparations made over the previous month are in full use now.  Allana is enjoying her Christmas blessing, drinking in Nisa’s presence having desired this particular beverage for so very long.

She wakes on Day 7, a little sore, her throat a bit raspy and maybe just a touch of fever.  Not to worry, she did just give birth and the crazy weather is enough to make anyone a bit….

The preparations made over a lifetime by an all knowing God are about to be tested.  Quiet joy and praises rise from home and ministry wrapped in one.  So much has been put on hold as we waited for Nisa.  We are already making plans for the Spring and Summer, mapping out what our lives and ministry will look like.  We did not know that in less than two weeks everything would change, but God had been molding us into “change managers” for some time.  Early in our journey to full-time ministry when I had left the Hospitality industry God had given me a word that I would only know what I would be doing and how we would be living 30 days at a time.  It was frustrating and difficult but it prepared me for the runaway train ride that was coming.

The fevers worsened.  We moved through Christmas and towards the New Year.  Sore throat spread to body aches and stomach pain.  These days so close to the day that everything changed are barely a blur in my memory.  I can remember little of what happened outside of the progression of the illness that we didn’t even know was there.  Even with the fevers and discomfort there was a blissful ignorance as to the journey that we were being called to embark on.  Just to put the whole piece into perspective, Nisa was born at 9:40 pm on December 16th.  The 17th is day one and we move on from there.  So we are looking at December 25th through January 1st.  As I review the various posts on Facebook I see faces of joy and innocence.  The fevers are a footnote to the joy of the season made even more joyful by the arrival of our miracle baby.  Allana even downplays the intensity of the fevers putting them at 102. By the night of the 31st they are spiking between 104 and 106, or maybe not wanting to worry her too much I fudge the numbers a little, I do not really remember..  A trip to the ER is only forestalled by the fact that the Ibuprofen is knocking them down into safer territory.  Still by New Years Day it was enough.  We called Allana’s OB office.  The doctor on call prescribes a heavy duty antibiotic and some anti nausea medicine to mitigate the side effects.  We start it right away, but of course she does not get better.  By January 2nd Allana is very sick.  The pain in her belly has gotten much worse.  We suspect a postpartum infection but don’t understand why the antibiotics do not help.  January 3rd is a Thursday.  We arrive at the OB office at 10:00 am and are ushered in to the examining room.  Our Nurse Practitioner listens patiently to the story, but as the physical exam progresses her demeanor changes.  There is an urgency to her motions as she feels the abnormal swelling in Allana’s belly, the tenderness and lumps at her joints.  I can feel my apprehension risings, but still there are so many pills, shots, treatments…a quick fix is in order…

“I have called the Flower Hospital, they are expecting her.”  What…we need to get some tests… “No we are admitting her.”  We have plans can it wait until Monday… “No, I want you there within 2 hours, go home settle the children and pick up what you need.  Once you are there they will begin running tests to see what is going on.”

FlowerJan3Well if you have to be in a hospital you might as well have a beautiful view and a beautiful woman to share it with.

It was only shortly after this picture was taken that I would hear the word “Leukemia” for the first time, mixed in with a couple of other potential causes for Allana’s test results.  If the fevers were the relentless clacking as the rollercoaster climbs the first rise, then this was the ominous pause before the first drop.  The ride would not stop for almost a year.  However while the emotions and physical aspects rode the speeding rails, God remained rock solid and faithful.  The outpouring of love from God’s people was incredible.  Even in the midst of the myriad of “spiritual” advisers who decried our lack of faith for continuing treatment or saw this as a sign of trouble in our walk with God; His love overwhelmed us. “Traveling deeper and deeper.  Closer closer to God”  Allana’s words would ring with truth in a way that neither of us could ever imagine.  Deeper and Deeper. Closer, closer to God…there was no where else to go.

I am going to follow this up with more posts around The Nineteen Days.  I too often forget to lead with the fact that Allana came through treatment well and has been cancer free for over 5 years now.  While we have weathered short forays into ministry together through the past years,  we are again engaged together in His service.  Grandchildren have come.  Children have grown, married, prepared for High School and College.  Nisa turned 6 today.  We walk the Hupomone road following His guidance and blessing.  We are so thankful for all of those who have held us when we were weak and walked with us as we have traveled.

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A Post from Allana

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.
John 5:24

“Where are you headed?” He asked.

“To Florida,” I replied.

I’m sure he was looking for a specific answer, but he let it slide.

“Is this trip for pleasure?”

The question hung in the air while I tried to find the right words.

“Um, something like that.”

He really didn’t need to know. I am sure that the look on my face told him that wasn’t completely true, but for the two minutes it took to look at my passport and check my boarding pass, he let that answer be enough.

I moved through the rest of our time in the airport, on the plane, the drive to the hotel, and even as we sat down for a late dinner much like a robot. Trust me, it was way easier to walk through that day numb than to do the type of sobbing my heart longed to do. The truth is. My dear mother-in-law was dying.

From the time of her diagnoses two months ago, her health slid downhill faster than any of us expected. Just last weekend, Sam’s brother, Paul, said that he thought Dorothy only had about two weeks left. Sam had already been down to see his parents a couple weeks ago and spent a significant amount of time with them both. “She probably has like two weeks…” came as a major surprise and yet when I asked Sam if he wanted to fly down to Florida to be with his family, who had all gathered there, he declined saying that he already had time to say, “Goodbye.” However, on Thursday, Sam came home from work and told me that he really felt that he needed to go tomorrow to Florida and he needed me to go with him.

As any mother would, my brain frantically thought through all the logistics. When did Samantha need to be at work throughout the weekend? What schoolwork needed to be focused on? When would I get groceries and do laundry? Would my mom be able to take off work to stay with my three girls? You know that kind of thing. Yet, one thing screamed louder than anything other thought – my husband needed me to be there with him, so I was going to be there with him.

Being the empath that I am, these very intense high emotion moments can be difficult for me to handle sometimes. Not only do I have my own sadness, but I can also feel the sadness that everyone else is feeling too. Yes, it can be overwhelming indeed. I have found through the years that I do better when I find a quiet-ish corner and daze out as I need to.

Throughout Saturday I watched my three beautiful sisters-in-law float easily throughout the house, caring for my father-in-law and mother-in-law. At the beginning, I have to admit, I felt like a major loser. Thoughts ran through my head like, I should have just stayed at home. Sitting in the corner barely moving wasn’t helping anyone, not even Sam. I could disappear and my missing presence wouldn’t even be noticed. You should be more like them and get off your behind and go do something helpful, and yet there I sat motionless.

Saturday evening, Dotty’s breathing became more strained and she was responding only through moans, and even that was becoming less. Sam, our son, his wife and I were getting ready to head out, but the hospice nurse came just as we were leaving and Sam wanted to hear what she was going to say, so he told Robert and Jen to go to the hotel and we would meet up with them there after the hospice nurse left. The very sweet and quick like adopted family hospice nurse moved about with much love and care carrying out her medical jobs. When she was done, she told us that our dear mom had about 24hrs left, and we should spend as much time as we could with her. My heart sank to the floor and my emotions whirled around in all different directions. Thoughts like I would never get another hug from this woman who gave such caring hugs. I would never get another of her encouraging cards in the mail. I would never see her like or love another post on Facebook. I also thought about how I just wanted Jesus to take her home as soon as possible so she didn’t need to suffer any longer. My thoughts turned to thankfulness as I thought about the great love she showed me. I also thought about all the times that I had allowed my insecurities win and I believed the lies they whispered to me often that Dotty didn’t like me.

When the hospice nurse left, I stayed in the background to let Dotty’s husband, Norm, and her children surround her. However, they quickly called me over to share this moment with them. Truth is I was scared. I was scared of being that close to this woman in her fragile state. I was scared that my emotions would flow over and I would fall into a heap and I would uncontrollably sob. Debbie told me that I could touch her, and with everyone watching me, I put the bravest face I could muster and I touched my mother-in-law’s soft arm. It was like the air was sucked out from my lungs at that moment, and yet, as I breathed in I just felt a sweet peace.

We all sat around her bed with worship music playing. There were tears, and I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who cried a mix of happy and sad tears. As my father-in-law held the hand of his beloved wife of 58 years, my heart broke for him. This was going to be a difficult journey of grief. None of us got much sleep through the night. But for me, there was an ‘air’ of peace.

Throughout the next day, Dotty became more and more unresponsive. Around 5pm, I saw Debbie stand up and lean over my mother-in-law. I noticed right away that her breathing was quieter than it had been since Sam and I arrived the day before. I got Sam’s attention, and others must have noticed my signal because we all got very quiet and waited for a few seconds, then we all gathered around mom’s bed. We watched while her breathing slowed but had become easy. At 5:45pm it was almost as if she smiled, her face full of peace she took her last breath. We put our arms around each other and took time to cry. After a few minutes we all went outside to call our children while dad took some time alone to say goodbye to his beautiful bride.

Robert and Jen offered to go get dinner for everyone. While they were out Jen texted saying that she could see a rainbow, so we all ran outside to see and sure enough, there was not only one rainbow, but a double rainbow right over top of the house. Then the sky changed from beauty to beauty for the next few hours. I think Heaven was rejoicing at this beautiful saint coming home.

I am going to greatly miss my mother-in-law. We didn’t talk all the time, but she was a part of my daily life on Facebook. She ‘reacted’ to just about every single one of my posts. She often made loving comments on pictures or posts about my children. Dorothy Guidry has left a great legacy. I am so thankful she was able to watch her prayers for her children be answered, as each of them came to a personal relationship with the Savior of the world. When Norm and Dotty’s pastor came by to minister to the family, he mentioned what a blessing it was that their faith has been passed down to their children. Norm looks over at Sam and said, “Yes, it took some longer than others.” It was a very funny moment.

It truly has been an absolute blessing to be accepted into this family. I will never forget the first time I met Dotty in person. I was nervous because most of Sam’s family was all gathered together in Boston after celebrating his grandmother’s 90th birthday. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, Dotty ran out the door, passed by Sam and ran over to me and gave me a huge hug. I was baffled and yet the welcome continued to be just as sweet. I was no longer just in love with Sam; I quickly fell in love with his entire family. They have always brought so many joyful moments! When I started my cancer fight, each of the Guidry’s poured out so much love out to not just Sam and I, but our children as well. I am grateful to not have any idea what friends are talking about when they complain about their in-laws. My continued experience has been so opposite. Norman and Dorothy have been such an incredible witness of Jesus’ love and that continues to trickle down through their children.

Mom, I am going to miss you! However, I am so thankful that I know without a shadow of doubt that you are free from pain and sorrow because I know that you loved Jesus with all your heart. I love the vision I had of you when you passed away from this earth into your eternal home. I saw you running with ease and leaping into the arms of your Savior. I saw your smile bigger than I ever saw it before. I saw tears of joy and awe as you marveled over the immense beauty that surrounded you. I am so thankful that you are free from pain. I am so thankful that you are being rewarded for your faithfulness to the Father. I am so thankful that I know there is a heaven and that you are there. And I rejoice that I will see you again. Yes, I will miss the loving cards that you would send. I will miss the sweet butterfly reminders that showed how much you cared about me. I will miss seeing your reactions and reading your comments on Facebook. I will miss your great genuine hugs. Thank you for lovingly accepting me into your family.

This is why death for a Christian is different. We put our faith in something that cannot be seen with human eyes, but is instead felt with spiritual ones. You have a strong knowing that when you enter heaven’s gates, there is freedom. Death didn’t win. My mother-in-law lives more deeply than she ever did here on earth. Cancer didn’t steal Dorothy from us… no… God welcomed her in to the place she belonged. Yes, it’s true, I absolutely hate cancer… but when a person dies from cancer, God doesn’t fail. He always heals, it may be a healing here on earth like I have had, or it may be a healing He chooses to give in heaven. God is good.

Allana G.

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Tita.Johns.ReceptionWe will be headed back to Florida in a couple of days to celebrate the life of Dorothy Guidry, my mother.  As a part of that service I have been asked to write out a memory that I have of her.  There are of course many individual memories that are cute and maybe a little angsty.  There is the time she was chasing me (in fun) and I headed out the storm door, missing the handle by inches, my hand went through the glass sending us on a trip to the nearest ER.  I remember how quickly the nurse in her came out as she wrapped my arm and instructed me to put pressure on the wound.  Her quick and calm response kept me from panic and you can be sure that I soaked the injury for all it was worth for years (If you have seen White Christmas you will know what I mean…)

There were strings in our string beans, hidden gifts on birthdays, Christmas scavenger hunts.  I remember her chain smoking as we waited for the movers to come during one of our many moves (she quit before I was a teenager).  I remember her patiently working with me to send a tape (mini reel to reel!) to my Dad who was posted overseas.  However my greatest memory of her is not any of these events.  It is a quality.  My mother pursued the heart of Jesus.  She loved and adopted people, just as He does. This love was without conditions and the adoption was freely available, it only needed to be accepted and there was a tacit understanding that this adoption extended to our family.

Whether it was the woman under the couch, the girl with the injured heart or the eleven year old smoker who would bruise me repeatedly standing outside our church, she brought them into the love of Christ in our home. Some of her adopted family will be sitting in the memorial service on Friday.  Some could not accept or persevere in their adoption and passed from view and some ended tragically bringing tears that few saw.  Some were (briefly) boyfriends or girlfriends but the love and adoption was never withdrawn.  Some are husbands and wives who stood by her side during these last days of life here on earth.  She has in this adopted family Peters, Pauls, Zaccheus’s, Mary Magdelenes, Marthas and even a few Lazarus’s. She has blessed so many and we have all been blessed in return.

This Spirit led heart guided our choice of church family.  We were never a “denomination”.  She taught us to seek the place the Holy Spirit would have us serve, not necessarily the place where we felt most comfortable or the place that served us best.  Our church family consists of Anglican,Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, Independent, Calvinist, Wesleyan and Armenian members literally all over the world.  This was not born of an inconstancy of belief but from a solid faith anchored on the Rock that allowed her to grasp the width and breadth of the Kingdom of God as few do.

 

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The Chemo Tree

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope ; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Romans 8:25-26

 

Cancer for all its evil, all its robbery, is a great teacher of true hope.  As I sit here preparing to fly to Florida for the memorial service for my mother I am reminded of God’s lessons in hope, God’s lessons in Hupomone.  “Is this the sum of all your fears, or the truth of all your hope?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)  My mother is with the Father.  She stands in our family as the truth of all our hope.

I have wrestled with this post for weeks. In fact I am still struggling with it and will probably continue to struggle with it. It is not meant to be doctrine or even counsel. It is simply emotional and spiritual transparency from a moment in which God spoke into my life.

Some time ago Real Hope with Perseverance sat next to me. He probably does not even realize how profoundly he impacted my life. God is so amazing in the way that he pairs the events of our lives with the biblical truths that he is laying on our hearts. This man and his loved ones walked the path that Allana and I, along with our family and so many of you walked over the past 18 months. He road the rollercoaster of emotion. He even walked the same hospital hallways. He prayed and was prayed for. He held those he loved and was held by them. A few short weeks before I met him the vibrant woman of God, his beloved wife, whom I will only meet when I get to stand in the presence of my God died.

As I sat there with my lovely Allana across from me God whispered in my ear…ok maybe he shouted. “Is this the sum of all your fears or the truth of All your hope.”But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Hope and perseverance are inexorably entwined for the believer and it is not hope in the visible and perseverance to the seen but a hope that is embedded in faith. ” Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

All the numbers that I had heard and read rolled through my mind, percentages of life and death. Grief and fear walking alongside faith and hope as I stood with my beloved. The same grief, fear, faith and hope that I saw sitting next to me. “Is this the sum of all your fears or the truth of All your hope”

Blessings,

Sam

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black rotary telephone at top of gray surface

 

More than a little sad.  I’d like to make a call.

A call I have made before when things weren’t going well.

You were always there, with advice I wouldn’t take

But the sound of your voice and the peace in your heart would ease whatever ache.

 

More than a little afraid.  I’d like to make a call.

A call to hear your laughter that always brought a smile.

You were always there, to lift my spirits high

Even when my foolishness had made me want to cry.

 

More than a little lost.  I’d like to make a call.

A call for some direction that always led me well.

You were always there when I’d lost my way

To bring me back home into the light of day.

 

More than a little lonely.  I’d like to make a call.

A call just to chat with you for a little while.

I want to say I love you and perhaps with a sigh

let you know I will miss you until we meet on high.

 

More than a little proud.  I’d like to make a call.

A call to pat your back and ring that final bell.

School is out and it’s time to go

From here on that journey home.

 

More than a little I love you and now I can’t make that call

But I know your soul is well

I miss you.

To My Mother Dorothy Guidry

 

 

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Meeting

In my 35 years of working experience I have come to recognize a phenomenon I call The Meeting Culture. Interestingly enough it crosses through the borders of the various regions in which I have been employed, across industries and even informal groups.  It became more salient in the later part of my career in the hospitality industry because I was engaged in trouble shooting challenged operations.  As I refocused my life on ministry and spiritual growth I was somewhat surprised to find the same culture at play within the fellowship of ministry, but then people are people no matter where we are.  Interestingly enough the heart of the culture has its genesis in both settings.

The early church, particularly the early Jewish church experienced a new phenomenon.  The practice of Judaism had long been tolerated by the Romans.  Zealots and radicals were put down but synagogues and temple worship were given a pass by the Latin conquerors.  However this new practice, these followers of Jesus were not content with their own kind and taught intolerance of other religions. Jesus was not just a god among gods, he was the God and the only one worthy of worship by all, not just the Jewish people.  Pack that up with the rumors spread by opponents and Christianity became anathema to 1st century rulers.  Gathering became dangerous.  It came to the point that the writer of Hebrews had to encourage and even mandate that the early believers meet together for fellowship and encouragement in the faith (Hebrews 1:25).  However there is a danger.  One that Paul clearly recognized when he wrote to the Corinthians and condemned their time together as not focused on their faith, “…because you come together not for the better but for the worse.”  He extends this warning in a positive sense when in Ephesians 4 he states:  “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  Ephesians 4:11-12  When the meetings stop resulting in “the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.” – and this is not your local church body – then it ceases to serve or follow the Gospel.

This is what I found as I started engaging businesses in crisis.  The deeper the crisis, the more meetings they had scheduled.  They would have manager meetings, department meetings, position meetings, strategy meetings, every kind of meeting that you can imagine.  They would plan these meetings, record these meetings and unfortunately never adequately execute anything that came out of these meetings.  In most cases the company had fully executable procedures and policies already in place.  So that raises the question, “What is the purpose, what is the drive for all those meetings?”  It became pretty obvious that even in distressed operations people need to feel successful.  This is what they find in their endless meetings…success.  They are able to have the most successful meetings.  They come out of the meetings feeling like they have made real progress.  They feel like they are fulfilling their purpose and calling.  The focus of success ceases to be the execution of purpose but becomes the discussion and planning of purpose.  However life and business are hard.  So when push comes to shove it is easier to have another meeting than to actually hold oneself accountable for the execution necessary for success.  This was fortunate for me as it kept me employed for a couple of decades.

So how does all this apply to our faith.  Let me be clear the gathering of the Saints is mandated by Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is when the meetings instead of focusing our faith become the focus of our faith.  When the center of our faith life is in a building instead of in our hearts; that building becomes a cage for the Gospel instead of a launching pad.  The impetus for this is the same as the meeting focused businesses that I have engaged.  We believe that we can find success in our meetings (services, gathering, experiences….).  We can be holy, inspired and powerful inside those four walls.  We are rarely challenged and often supported inside those four walls (unless we find ourselves challenging the culture inside those four walls!).  We are safe in the practice of our faith inside those four walls.  After the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD Christianity transitioned from a fringe group of Jesus fanatics to the primary religion of Europe.  It was during this period that a corollary to the Meeting Culture developed.  It is the idea that there are special “professional” children of God who really should carry the weight of the Gospel ( re-read Ephesians 4:11-12).  They get to lead the meetings where we can be so successful.  The newest class of these professional Christians is the worship leader.  Again worship is wonderful, but if the top of one’s life in Christ exists only in the midst of well engineered worship sets, we go back to the problem of the meeting culture in business.  The Gospel is contained, not executed.  The personal satisfaction and alleviation of personal responsibility that this culture provided made it grow.  It was easy to move from a fellowship of equals celebrating and sharing the gospel of redemption both together and in their communities to being a culture of meetings and rituals performed by “professional” Christians and from there to the place where the meeting itself became not only a celebration of salvation but the mode of salvation.

There was a time in my life when I measured the health of my faith by the number of meetings I attended.  This week I went to two church services, Wednesday night prayer, a small group, served at youth group and did the Friday morning prayer card session.  I am rocking for the Lord.  Now none of those things is bad.  Not event the collection is bad.  The fact that I used my attendance as a Spiritual scorecard is bad.  Honestly at that time in my life my immersion in the church was probably necessary to my spiritual formation but God had to rip the scorecard out of my hand.  I am particularly stubborn so my grip on that card was pretty tight.  It took pretty intense situations in my life to move me from a meeting scorecard to a biblical scorecard.  Now I know that you are ready for me to lay out all the check boxes on that biblical scorecard.  Sorry, no such luck.  It does  not work that way.  There are two metrics for the scorecard, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Jesus tells the disciples in Luke 12 that when they are brought to judgement for their faith, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  Paul uses the Holy Spirit as a scorecard for his words to the Romans in chapter 9, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,…” and in chapter 14 he sets the Holy Spirit as the scorecard for the very kingdom of God, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  

David says in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” and Jesus uses His Word as the metric for a Hupomone life built on the rock in Matthew 7 as compared to the foolish life of the man who did not act on his Word and built his house on the sand.  This is what we do when we center our lives in the house instead of on the foundation.

Build your faith on the Rock.  Fellowship together with purpose (the Gospel) not as a purpose and you will see the hand of God move in and around you like never before.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

 

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Marrow

…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life…,but with precious blood,as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.  1 Peter 1:18-19

Ask any blood cancer or disorder survivor about the value of blood and you may get a more intense answer than you were expecting.  As a rule we don’t think about blood much unless it starts coming out (and then we are kind of disgusted) or when it fails us.  God established the value of blood from the beginning when he created the universe.  It has been interwoven into the fabric of his covenant with mankind over the millennia, taking shape in the Law and being fulfilled in the person of His son Jesus Christ.

God tells Cain that Abel’s blood is crying out from the ground. (Genesis 4:10).  Reuben sees the judgment for Joseph’s blood (he didn’t know what had happened to him in Egypt) when Joseph tests the brothers. (Genesis 42:22)  Blood on the door posts signaled the angel of death to pass by the homes of the Jews and. (Exodus 12)  Blood figures prominently in the sacrificial worship instituted by the Law of Moses, including being dabbed onto the ear lobes, thumbs and big toes of the priests.  The shedding of blood is God’s reason for not allowing David to build His temple. (1 Chronicles 19:10)  Solomon writes in Psalm 72:

He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save.  He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, And their blood will be precious in His sight;

The prophets decry the spilling of innocent blood over and over. Ezekiel describes its cleansing properties.  They set the stage for the compelling atonement to come in the person of the Messiah,

Jesus would proclaim “For My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” establishing a new standard of life for mankind, redeemed life, shortly before He is sacrificed on a hill outside of Jerusalem.  This fulfills the enormous body of blood theology that God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit inspired many different men to write, establishing the great value of the tainted blood of creation. They gave just a taste of the value of the blood of the perfect Lamb, without spot or blemish;  all God …all Man…all love…come to be the savior of humanity.  He provides us a pathway to renewed relationship with our creator.  It is the relationship that we were created for prompting the author of Hebrews to say:

“how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…” Hebrews 2:3

This is the value of blood, that God values the blood of every human being and desires that the atoning blood of his Son will restore the relationship so long broken.  This is so great a salvation and so great a power in the blood of the lamb how can we who know not proclaim it to a lost world.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…”

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